Plebe no more!
He made it! Finally, after 11 months of perseverance, hard work, struggle, fatigue, and, sometimes, enjoyment, Aaron has passed his Plebe year at the United States Naval Academy! Plebe year is the first year of a midshipman’s life at the USNA and is marked by many challenges as the young men and women aspire to become naval officers. One of the many running jokes at the academy is that your time at the USNA is divided into three phases: Plebe Summer, Plebe Year, and the rest of your time there. It probably feels like that. Making it through the first year is quite an accomplishment.
The academy is steeped in tradition. Plebes cannot simply end their first year without some sort of customary celebration, not matter how bizarre. So, they anxiously await the Herndon. It is the last event marking the end of being a Plebe.
What is the Herndon?
The following is taken form the USNA Public Affairs Office website:
At the sound of a cannon blast, 1,000 eager, screaming plebes charge toward a 21-foot grey monument that taunted them all year. They attempt to climb the lard-covered obelisk as thousands of spectators watch with the hopes that they complete the task quickly. This event at the U.S. Naval Academy is known simply as “Herndon” or the “Plebe Recognition Ceremony.”
The plebe class works together to accomplish the goal of retrieving a white plebe “dixie cup” hat from atop the monument and replace it with an upperclassmen’s hat. It is a tradition that has endured at the Naval Academy for many years. More than 200 pounds of lard applied to the monument by upper-class midshipmen complicate the task.
To understand the tradition and emotion of the climb, it is necessary to understand the qualities of the man for whom the monument is named.
Commander William Lewis Herndon, 1813-1857, possessed the qualities of discipline, teamwork and courage. In command of the Central America, home bound with California gold seekers, Herndon lost his life in a gallant effort to save ship and men during a hurricane off Cape Hatteras. These are the attributes necessary to fulfill the Herndon tradition.
Tradition states that the plebe who reaches the top will rise to the rank of admiral first. As any observer can recognize, climbing to the top of Herndon takes a lot of teamwork and perseverance. Ascending Herndon serves as a review for young midshipmen, reminding them of the values of teamwork, courage and discipline that are instilled throughout the year.